You start with the short side of the scarf draped over the right side of your head, concealing the hair but exposing the face. Taking the longer side, wrap it tightly beneath your chin, around the back of your neck and over your head. Pin the scarf in place just above your left ear, or tuck the excess tightly along your jaw.
This is only one of the many ways to tie a hijab, the optional headscarf worn by Muslim women as a symbol of modesty and humility.
Amany (pronounced A-MAY-knee) Elgendy, or “Wishes” in Arabic, is a 2014 graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University and member of the Muslim Student Association. She, along with other officers of the MSA on FGCU’s campus, set up in the student plaza in celebration of World Hijab Day, demonstrating the practice of tying the hijab on students, passersby and faculty alike.
“It all started with [a girl],” Elgendy said. “She decided to bring more awareness to being a ‘covered girl’ and sharing with people who don’t wear a hijab the reason why we wear it and the daily struggles behind it.”
She continued to explain the World Hijab Day is meant to be a safe place for curious people to learn about the Islam faith, what it is to be a Muslim and to try on hijab themselves. It’s an open platform for people to come and ask Muslim women about their lives and opinions first-hand rather than unreliable sources via the Internet.
“The biggest part of being [in] hijab is not just being cover body-wise, it’s also to be covered, or modest mentally,” Elgendy said. “A big part of being Muslim is to be humble and modest.”
FGCU student Lexy Lopez participated in today’s event, trying on a hijab for her first time.
“It feels really comfortable, it was definitely something different that I’ve never done before,” Lopez said. “I never really was educated about why they wore it or the significance behind it until today.”
Misconceptions about the Islamic faith claim that Muslim women are oppressed into wearing the hijab and in their daily lives. These claims are highly incorrect. The hijab, and the clothing that is associated with it, are completely optional.
Sara Beksi, president of Phi Eta Sigma and member of the MSA, is one of the young Muslim women who do not wear the hijab.
“I don’t wear hijab for personal reasons,” Beksi said. “I feel like when the time comes for me, I will feel it within my very being. If it’s late down the line, if it’s next year, next month, next week – what have you – that’s just how I feel.”
One student stood out in particular: Mahnoor Aziz (Man-OAR A-Zee), an international student from Pakistan. She, like the members of the MSA, was very familiar with the hijab and Islamic faith, as she is a practicing Muslim herself.
“I feel really good to see this environment,” Aziz said, “to think that people are observing this and coming to the stall to try on hijab. It’s really cool; I feel really proud.”
The goal set before these young women was not to preach their faith, but to educate and break the stigmas against Muslims. Modern media, Hollywood and more present the Islamic faith as highly radical and violent; the reality is that Islam is the complete opposite.
Elgendy explains that the difference between Christianity, Judaism and the Islam faith is their held beliefs on who Jesus actually was and who carried their beliefs. To Muslims, he wasn’t the Son of God, he was only the prophet who carried his message.
“The religion was carried from Prophet Muhammad,” Elgendy said. “He was the last known prophet that carried the message of Islam … This is the biggest discrepancy that anyone can talk about. Pretty much all three main religions have the same background and the same purpose.
“You were given a purpose and you need to do your best to fulfill that purpose,” Elgendy said. “You be a good person, you [do] good deeds, you help people that are less fortunate than you, you try as much as you can to be a decent person, you know good from bad, you don’t go out drinking and partying and waste your life away.”
The purpose behind World Hijab Day is more than to allow visitors a taste of what this culture is. It’s to be a place to be enlightened to new ideas and ways of life. It’s about breaking the stigmas against Islam and its followers and reaching out to those who have never had the chance to experience it.
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